A Hormonal Approach to Mood


The Link Between Hormones and Depression, Anxiety and Other Mood Symptoms

By: Dr. Constance Crisp, Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of Little Rock


Many people - and doctors - use antidepressants as a first-line of treatment against depression, anxiety and similar mood disorders. However, many of these conditions are actually hormonal in nature and can be resolved much more effectively (and with far fewer side effects!) using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).


Sex Hormones & Mood

Sex hormones can have a profound effect on your mood. For instance, estrogen can help improve your mood via its affect on serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is active in the brain. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety and difficulty sleeping, as well as affecting how you experience pain. Estrogen, however, helps in the formation of this neurotransmitter, bringing it back to optimal levels.

Progesterone, on the other hand, has a very calming effect. When taken in pill form, progesterone affects the GABA receptors in the brain, calming you and helping you to sleep. Most people realize that when you don't sleep well, your mood tends to suffer. Natural progesterone, in general, can also help alleviate mood swings, irritability and depression.

Testosterone can have a significant impact on mood, as well. It helps with one's sense of well-being and self-confidence, which are important aspects to a positive mood. In fact, depression and anxiety are well-known symptoms of low testosterone.


Stress & Mood

Sex hormones aren't the only hormones that can affect your mood: cortisol is also a major culprit. This hormone, often called the stress hormone, is produced in the adrenal glands in reaction to stress. Your cortisol levels generally increase during periods of heightened stress and decrease when you're more relaxed.

However, the modern world bombards us with constant stress every day, often without letting our cortisol levels drops back down to less-stressful levels. This results in consistently high levels of cortisol which can deplete the adrenal glands. They don't have a chance to recover, so your cortisol levels remain low even when stress is present. During this state, which is known as adrenal fatigue, you may experience many mood-related symptoms, including depression, anxiety, insomnia and difficulty handling stress.


Thyroid & Mood

Your thyroid hormones are also important to your mood. These hormones regulate your metabolism. The most common form of thyroid hormone imbalance occurs when your thyroid hormones are low: hypothyroidism. Depression is a well-known symptom of hypothyroidism. However, thyroid hormone replacement therapy frequently resolves the problem, elevating your mood so that you can begin to feel like yourself again.


Why is Mood Important?

Your mood affects more than just how you feel emotionally; it can also have a direct effect on your physical health. Many people suffering from depression, anxiety or insomnia have difficulty maintaining healthy nutrition and fitness plans. You may feel like you haven't got the energy to cook wholesome meals and rely, instead, on packaged, processed, heat-and-serve meals. Or, you may focus largely on high-calorie comfort foods that simply make your feel better, emotionally.

However, neither of these options is healthy. Junk food - including simple sugars and processed foods - contribute to weight gain, inflammation and poor cardiovascular health. The other extreme isn't healthy, either: you may simply not eat as much as you should, which can eventually lead to drastic and unhealthy weight loss.

You may also simply not feel like exercising - or doing much of anything, at all - when you're depressed. It can be difficult to motivate yourself when you're feeling down and out, but failing to exercise and eat right actually exacerbates the problem. Your physiology actually drives your psychology. As your physical health declines, you feel worse and worse, emotionally.


Improving Your Mood

It's not a one-way street, though. Just as lack of proper nutrition and fitness can bring you down, exercising and eating right can actually lift your spirits. Exercise can energize you, making you feel stronger and improving your sense of well-being - you just have to push yourself to get that far. In fact, as little as 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, done at least 5 days a week, may be just as effective against mild to moderate depression as an antidepressant.

Optimal nutrition goes hand-in-hand with proper exercise. Your body needs high-quality foods to function at its best. Whole, nutritious foods give you the fuel your body needs to power itself and your mind. But it is important to realize that what is best for other people may not be best for you: any food sensitivities or allergies you may have can have a significant effect on your health and, in turn, your mood. However, if your hormones are not balanced, you will need to bring them back into optimal balance to see the results you're truly looking for. A qualified doctor can detect thehormonal imbalances that may be at the root of your mood symptoms with a simple blood or saliva test. Once your physician understands your current hormonal profile, he or she can prescribe bioidentical hormone therapy to bring your hormones back into optimal balance. With hormone balance, you will see a drastic improvement in your symptoms as well as your overall quality of life.


Putting it All Together

So many people who are currently on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are simply not getting good responses from their medication. This is a major clue that there's something else going on that they need to address - and hormonal imbalance may be to blame. You may not even be considering depression or anxiety medications. You may just feel too tired or run-down to live your life to the fullest. If you don't have the energy to exercise or begin a healthy diet, balancing your hormones may give you that extra push.

Your doctor's support can help quite a bit, as well. My colleagues within the BodyLogicMD network and I will take the time to sit down and talk to you about nutrition, fitness and hormone balance and how they all relate to one another. We will explain why all three of these components are so important and just what they can do to improve your health - and your quality of life.

To learn more about mood and how bioidentical hormone therapy can help, visit www.bodylogicmd.com or call my office at (866) 928-8722.

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